What’s the difference between a Quantity Surveyor and an Estimator?

How do you decide who should put together a particular customer quote? When is a) a Quantity Surveyor b) a building estimator from an estimating service or c) you or a colleague, the right fit? What’s the difference?

What a Quantity Surveyor excels at…

For our money Quantity Surveyors come into their own on projects upwards of £2m, undertaking feasibility studies, using their negotiating skills, dealing with Bill of Quantities, preparing contracts, managing sub-contractor relationships and analysing the outcome of the job. They’re needed on site and the role is as much about dealing with personnel and clients as it is about pricing. This level of service could be overkill on some projects, especially as you pay premium for it.

Estimating in-house

Some jobs are in and out before you know it. They’re the ‘bread and butter’ projects. You reckon they suit your ‘building costs per square metre’ way of working. And chances are you tweak an existing quote. Beware though as you could have inadvertently made an error in the first quote – an error that is being replicated on every subsequent job. And is every ‘typical’ job really the same? Unless they’re in the same street and built in the same month nothing stays the same or shares the same underground conditions.

Equally, you might find yourself with a lull in work and can afford the time to quote on the more complex projects. You can research the latest material prices, give thought to the man hours required and tick off all those hidden costs like insurance and wastage.

When to use an estimating servicequantity surveyor

There are plenty of reasons for choosing a building estimator service:

  • You’re ridiculously busy
  • You’re under pressure and possibly making mistakes
  • You’re missing out on jobs because you’re slow to get the quotes out
  • You’ve had enough of putting your hand in your pocket because of oversights
  • The project is complex but not enough to need an onsite estimator
  • You’ve rethought your business and are outsourcing ALL your estimating
  • …you want some time off!

A good estimating service is very tempting. Typically much more cost effective than a Quantity Surveyor, they can still guarantee a 100% accurate quote and the material prices they use will be up to the minute. They’ll cost and quantify all your materials, labour and plant, and if they’re anything like HBXL Professional Services they’ll calculate VAT, wastage, inflation, critical costs and/or profit, and wear and tear as well.


Because we use the award-winning EstimatorXpress software and all our estimators have a construction background, customers know they can trust us with their valuable projects. In fact they go on to win over 56% of the projects put through us whether they’re in London, Hertfordshire, Manchester or Birmingham. As well as the quotation for their client (as an editable MS Word file) we automatically include a detailed breakdown of costs, materials, labour and plant schedules, as well as a suggested build program.

Estimating can be the easiest or hardest part of a construction project depending on how you treat it. Doing it yourself could be a false economy if you forget to include something or make an error in your spreadsheet. Just as getting it done cheaply or at a premium could prove equally unsatisfactory. So shop around, search out reviews, ask questions, book a consultation and look at sample estimates. And remember thanks to email and the internet you don’t have to stay local either!

If you’d like to know about our own 100% accurate estimating service for builders, and the 20% discount on your first project, please call us on 0117 916 7894 or email estimatingservice@hbxl.co.uk